Posts Tagged ‘Americans With Disabilities Act’

Indigestion: Firing Employee for Taking Medication Costs KFC Franchise $30K

You can’t make an employee choose between taking her prescribed medication and keeping her job. You’ve got to make a reasonable accommodation for the employee.

Hester Foods, Inc., the operator of a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Dublin, Ga., will pay $30,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced Feb 1.

The EEOC filed suit in 2017, charging that Hester Foods’ owner violated federal law by firing restaurant manager Cynthia Dunson in July 2015 when he found out that she was taking medications prescribed by her doctor for her bipolar disorder. The restaurant owner referred to Dunson’s medications in obscene terms, the EEOC said, and made her destroy her medications by flushing them down a toilet at the restaurant. When Dunson later told the owner that she planned to continue taking the medications per her doctor’s orders, the owner told her not to return to work and fired her.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 3:17-cv-000340-DHB-BKE) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to providing monetary damages to Dunson, the consent decree settling the lawsuit requires Hester Foods to create and disseminate a handbook containing policies that prohibit discrimination. The decree also requires that the company provide annual equal employment opportunity training to its managers, supervisors, and employees. The two-year decree further requires the company to post a notice to its employees about the lawsuit and to provide periodic reporting to EEOC about disability discrimination complaints.

“Federal laws protect employees whose disabilities require them to take medications and employers must make accommodation for those requirements,” said Bernice Williams-Kimbrough, director of the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office.

Antonette Sewell, regional attorney for the Atlanta District Office, added, “Employers are not allowed to force workers with disabilities to choose between their jobs and their health. Reasonable accommodation includes allowing workers to rely on their physicians, not on the opinions of the company managers.

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Employee Unlawfully Fired While on Disability Leave for Heart Attack, EEOC Charges in Suit

A heart attack proved painful for the sufferer–and maybe more so for the employer that ousted him.

Vantage, a Houston-based group of interrelated energy, drilling and management companies, violated federal law by firing an employee because he had heart attack on board one of Vantage’s drilling rigs, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit says it filed on January 26, 2018.

The EEOC’s lawsuit charges that Vantage employee David Poston was terminated after he suffered a heart attack while working on the “Titanium Explorer,” one of Vantage’s drilling rigs. The heart attack resulted in an impairment to Poston’s cardiovascular system which necessitated that he take short-term disability leave. Poston was targeted for termination while he was on leave, the EEOC said, and then discharged immediately upon being released to return to work.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 4:18-cv-00254) against Vantage Drilling Company, Vantage Energy Services, Inc., Vantage Drilling International, f/k/a Offshore Group Investment Ltd., and Vantage International Management Company Pte. Ltd. in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks an injunction prohibiting such actions in the future, as well as back pay with pre-judgment interest, compensatory damages and punitive damages, in amounts to be determined at trial.

“Targeting an employee for an adverse action because he has been forced to take disability leave due to a debilitating medical condition violates the ADA,” said Rayford O. Irvin, district director of the EEOC’s Houston District Office. “This sort of illegal treatment deprives such people of the equal opportunities in the workplace that every American should enjoy.”

Rudy Sustaita, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Houston, explained, “An employee who has suffered a heart attack has enough to deal with without having to face unlawful discrimination and unemployment. The EEOC is here to fight for the rights of people like David Poston.”

The EEOC’s senior trial attorney in charge of the case, Connie Gatlin, added, “Vantage’s thoughtless actions in this case violate both the letter and the spirit of the ADA, which is intended to increase job opportunities and protections for people with disabilities.”

According to the company’s website, Vantage Drilling International, a Houston-based company, is an offshore drilling contractor formed in 2007 that operates and manages a fleet of modern, high-specification drilling rigs. It provides personnel from around the globe to support its worldwide drilling operations. The EEOC alleges that the four Vantage entities named in the lawsuit, including Vantage Drilling International, operate as an integrated enterprise and single employer.

EEOC: Employer Violated ADA in Refusing Employee More Time Off for Medical Recovery

Employers that take a my-way-or-the-highway stance toward employees who need a little more time off to recover from illness or surgery stand a good chance of being sued over their decisionmaking. A North Carolina company now faces a summons from the federal government to appear in court and answer for its behavior.

Heritage Home Group, LLC (Heritage Home), a North Carolina corporation that designs, manufactures, sources and retails home furnishings, violated federal law when it denied a reasonable accommodation to one of its employees and then fired him, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed Jan. 31.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, Heritage Home hired Michael Woods to work as a machine operator at its Hickory Chair Company manufacturing plant in Hickory, N.C., in October 2015. Woods, a diabetic, developed an infection in one of his toes in March 2016. Woods underwent an operation to have the toe amputated, and was subsequently diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy in both feet. The EEOC said that around April 8, 2016, Woods, who was out of work on short-term disability leave, informed Heritage Home of his anticipated return to work the first week of June, since he needed the additional leave to recover fully. In a letter dated April 29, 2016, Heritage Home informed Woods that it was terminating his employment because he would not be able to return to work until then.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with a disability unless doing so would be an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Statesville Division (EEOC v. Heritage Home Group, LLC, Civil Action No. 5:18-cv-00018) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief.

“The obligation to accommodate an employee with a disability so that he or she can retain the job is a fundamental aspect of the ADA,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “Employers must be careful to give employees a fair chance to make a full recovery from disability-related conditions and return to productive work when the company can do so without undue hardship.”

Lowe’s on Hook for $55K to Worker Demoted After Being Denied Reasonable Accommodation

If an employee can continue to perform the essential functions of a job with a reasonable accommodation, the employer has an obligation to continue to try accommodating that worker to let him continue doing the job.

Not doing so put a leading hardware chain at peril in an Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuit.

Lowe’s Home Centers, LLC, a nationwide chain of home improvement and hardware stores, will pay $55,000 and provide other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced Jan. 26.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Lowe’s failed or refused to accommodate a department manager who is disabled because of a spinal cord injury that substantially limits the use of his right arm. The employee was hired by Lowe’s as a customer service associate in 2006 and promoted to a department manager in 2008. The company was aware of his disability at the time he was selected for promotion, and he successfully worked as a department manager for six years. The employee’s disability prevented him from using power equipment that requires the use of two hands, but he delegated that task to associates under his supervision. EEOC’s lawsuit claimed that in June 2015, Lowe’s notified the employee that he could no longer be provided with a reasonable accommodation, and demoted him to a non-supervisory associate position. As a result of the demotion, his hourly rate of pay was cut by more than $4 an hour.

The EEOC alleged in its suit that the company’s refusal to accommodate the department manager, a qualified individual with a disability, and subsequent decision to demote him to a lower-paying position violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC sued in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division (Civil Action No. 4:17-CV-02589-M) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The three-year consent decree settling the suit, signed by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Barbara Lynn, calls for Lowe’s to provide monetary relief to the employee, as well as to conduct training on the ADA for employees, managers and human resources personnel at the Cleburne Store.

“It is important for companies like Lowe’s to carefully make decisions regarding reasonable accommodations to ensure its employees with disabilities can perform their work successfully,” said Suzanne Anderson, supervisory trial attorney for the EEOC’s Dallas District Office. “The early settlement of this litigation assures that this employee will continue serving as a productive member of the Lowe’s team.”

“This result benefits both the employee represented by the EEOC and all current and future employees of Lowe’s who can successfully perform the essential functions of their job with reasonable accommodation,” said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Meaghan Kuelbs. “By spreading awareness of the Americans with Disabilities Act through training and notice-posting in the workplace, we hope to educate both employees and employers on the proper steps to take in making and handling a request for reasonable accommodation and thereby prevent additional lawsuits of this sort in the future.”

Bad Bet: Nonaccommodation of Stressed-Out Employee Costs Casino $140K in ADA Settlement

This roll of the dice backfired for a Detroit casino operator. The result is a costly settlement of disability discrimination charges.

A Detroit casino operator will pay $140,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced Jan. 24. The EEOC had charged that Greektown Casino LLC unlawfully failed to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee with stress-anxiety disorder, leading to his discharge.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the employee, a pit manager, requested an additional four weeks of extended leave to return to work following a stress-anxiety-related collapse on the job. Greektown denied the request and subsequently fired the employee after his leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) was exhausted.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which mandates that covered employers provide reasonable accommodations for the known disabilities of employees. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit (Case No. 2:16-cv-13540) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

As part of the consent decree settling the suit, Greektown will pay $140,000 to the employee, and will all train supervisory and human resources employees on the requirements of the ADA.

“We are pleased with the relief provided by the consent decree,” said Dale Price, the EEOC attorney who handled the case. “It provides meaningful protections for the employees of Greektown. With this resolution, Greektown has taken a positive step towards protecting the rights of employees with disabilities.”

Sweet Taste: $15K Settlement by Cheesecake Factory in EEOC’s ADA Suit Over Deaf Worker

The Cheesecake Factory has great food–especially their cheescake–but one of its restaurant’s treatment of a deaf employee left a bad taste with federal investigators.

The Cheesecake Factory and its wholly owned subsidiary will pay $15,000 and implement changes to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced Feb. 1.

According to the EEOCs suit, The Cheesecake Factory’s Seattle restaurant failed to provide an effective accommodation for Oleg Ivanov, who is deaf and was a newly-hired dishwasher, then subsequently fired him for issues associated with his disability. The agency’s investigation found that The Cheesecake Factory denied Ivanov’s requests for orientation training with either closed captioned video or an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter.

The EEOC alleged in its suit that the company’s refusal to accommodate Ivanov violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense. It is also illegal to punish an employee with a disability for requesting a reasonable accommodation. After first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the agency’s conciliation process, the EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. The Cheesecake Factory, Inc. and The Cheesecake Factory Restaurants, Inc., 2:16-CV-1942-JLR.) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

As part of a two-year consent decree, The Cheesecake Factory will pay $15,000 to Ivanov for back pay and compensatory damages, and has agreed to provide closed captioning for the training and orientation videos that are required viewing for new hires. The company will also provide more detailed descriptions to managers and employees on how the company is to provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities in the future.

“We are pleased that The Cheesecake Factory has agreed to work with the EEOC to help dismantle barriers that individuals with disabilities face in the workplace,” said Nancy Sienko, director of the EEOC’s Seattle Field Office. “The changes will help future deaf applicants and employees at The Cheesecake Factory.”

EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney John Stanley added, “All Mr. Ivanov wanted was the opportunity to work at The Cheesecake Factory on a level playing field with hearing employees, with accessible training on how to clock in for his shifts and how to use the online scheduling system. These changes should help alleviate the isolation that a deaf employee can experience in the workplace, and equip the employee with the basic tools to succeed.”

According to company information, the Cheesecake Factory Inc., based in Calabasas Hills, Calif., employs more than 37,000 people in 37 different states and had over $1.9 billion in revenue from its operations in 2014, the year in which Ivanov worked at the company’s Seattle restaurant.

Volvo Drives $70K Bargain in Settlement With EEOC Over Applicant Who Was Drug Addict

Volvo chose to capitulate rather than fight an EEOC lawsuit alleging it violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by withdrawing a job offer to a recovering drug addict.

Volvo Group North America, LLC, will pay $70,000 and furnish significant equitable relief to settle a federal disability discrimination suit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced Jan. 19.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Volvo made a conditional job offer to a qualified applicant — who was also a recovering drug addict enrolled in a supervised medication-assisted treatment program — for a laborer position at its Hagerstown, Md., facility. During his post-offer physical examination, the applicant explained that he was taking medically prescribed suboxone. However, Volvo failed to conduct an individualized assessment to determine what effect, if any, the suboxone had on his ability to perform the job. When the applicant reported for his first day of work, Volvo informed him that it could not hire him because of his suboxone use, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on disability. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Volvo Group North America, LLC, Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-02889) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to the $70,000 in monetary relief to the applicant, the three-year consent decree resolving the suit enjoins Volvo from violating the ADA in the future. Volvo will distribute to all employees at its Hagerstown facility an ADA policy explaining the right to a reasonable accommodation for a disability unless it would pose an undue hardship. Volvo will amend its policy on post-offer medical and drug evaluations to explain how it will assess whether an employee’s or applicant’s lawful use of prescription medication poses a direct threat as defined by the ADA, including providing a reasonable accommodation as required by the ADA. Volvo will also provide ADA training, including on how the law relates to drug screening and the use of lawfully prescribed medications. Volvo will report to the EEOC on how it handles any complaints of disability discrimination and post a notice regarding the settlement.

“Employers should make hiring decisions based on the qualifications of an applicant, not his disability or participation in a medically supervised treatment program,” said EEOC Philadelphia District Office Director Jamie R. Williamson.

EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence, added, “We appreciate that Volvo worked with the EEOC to resolve this case fairly, expeditiously and without incurring unnecessary litigation expenses. This settlement is designed to help ensure that all applicants and employees are protected from disability discrimination.”

The EEOC’s Baltimore Field Office is one of four offices in the Philadelphia District Office, which has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Attorneys in the Philadelphia District Office also prosecute discrimination cases in Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.